Monday, October 08, 2007

Asterix and Obelix to the Rescue

Last night before I went to my flat I decided to go for a walk. The weather was cold, about -4 C, but bearable, and it was snowing, very pretty. So off I went, and it was most enjoyable. I arrived back at my flat ready for a warm drink and supper....not so!!

I got to my front door, pushed the key into the outer security door lock and turned it as normal...and the bloody key snapped off in the lock!!

I tried to use a bit of force to see if I could get it open....then the handle came off!!

So there I was, in one hand a broken off key and in the other the broken off handle. Sometimes life can be a bit of a pain!

I then went to the car to see if I could find something a bit bigger and stronger to force the door. I found the infamous folding snow shovel. Well it’s better than nothing....not so!!

I jammed the snow shovel into the space between the door and the jam and leaned on it with all my might....and the shovel blade bent like it was made of plastic!!

I needed help. I made a few phone calls and found that there were a couple of our Russian warehouse men still at work. So off I went to get them and hopefully a crow bar or something similar.

The two guys I found were the spitting image of Asterix and Obelix. One was small and bossy and the other was immense and a bit slow.

They took about 2 minutes to break the door in using huge crowbars and a sledge hammer, inspiring great confidence in my security.

But the amazing thing about this whole episode was the fact that even with all the hammering and sound of breaking wood not a soul came to see what was going on!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Back Again

I have been locked out of this blog for almost 6 months and finally I managed to resurrect it. I have tried to use my new blog on but it is beyond me how to post on it and your much enjoyed comments were not getting through. So back to basics and the old blog site, and please comment away!

The summer has gone by without much going on here in the land of the frozen chosen. The summer mosquito onslaught was as usual, after all this is Siberia and we have to have something to make life miserable even when the weather is good!

The autumn colors were very evident when I arrived a week ago, but last night the wind increased to almost gale force and a storm came through. The lovely yellow and brown leaves were stripped during the night leaving some rather embarrassed naked trees about!

When I awoke the wind was howling and the rain pouring down. By the time I was on my way to the office the rain had turned to snow!! It didn't settle but it was a very pointed reminder of what is to come, and probably very soon!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Black Snow

Over the last few days there has been an incredible thaw with feet of snow disappearing almost overnight. This has left a rather odd snow!

From what I can figure the white snow has melted and in that white snow were small amounts of dust, dirt, what have you ("what have yous" can be almost anything, from old beer bottles to frozen drunk locals). The snow melts the dirt and dust doesn't. So as more and more snow melts the exposed layers get darker and darker as more and more dirt is left behind

With me so far?

Not only is the snow black but so are the melt puddles, actually small lakes, that have formed on the roads. The cars are black, even the white ones. The packs of town dogs have all turned black too... nothing has been spared.

This place of pristine whiteness has turned into a vision from hell almost overnight

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Snowdrift Incident - Epilogue

After writing a scathing report to our Health and Safety department on the total failure of the emergency procedures that are supposed to be in place to save us from freezing to death while stuck in snowdrifts, the following measures have been taken:

1. I now have an antenna fitted to the roof of my car that will enable me to use my cell phone from any place I am likely to go. Fortunately this actually works...I personally tested it.

2. Our Journey Management System is to be more closely monitored by the HSE people. That means that the moron that is suppose to know where everybody is at any moment in time when we are out in the Tundra was given a stern warning to be more attentive to his job....oooooh that should work!!

3. The HSE department gave me a bigger shovel !!!!!!!!!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Snowdrift Incident

Yesterday the weather turned rather warm, it actually got above freezing for the first time since last October, wow an early Spring! The sun was shining and all was well. It was a little slow in the office so I decided to go out into the tundra and pay a visit to my field engineers; boost moral and all that.

So off I went.

As I was driving out I noticed that the temperature was falling again and clouds coming in, what a pain , the day was so nice. But onward I went.

Then the wind started to get a bit frisky and snow started to blow across the road as it does frequently here, nothing new. However I did notice that the wind was getting stronger and stronger and the snow was really starting to pick up and blow about. But onward I went.

I got onto the tundra ice road and then the snow started and the wind really howled and visibility dropped to about 10 yards. But onward I went.

Driving started to get a bit interesting and then it happened....I hit a snowdrift and got firmly stuck!! The front end of the vehicle was well and truly planted. I shifted down to Low FWD and tried to reverse out, no such luck, it wouldn't budge.

I got out of the car and stepped up to my knees in snow; do you know how hard it is to walk about in knee high snow....not easy! I waded to the back of the car and got out the emergency kit and pulled out the shovel. The wind was really blowing and the snow was flying by, and the temperature was obviously dropping. The shovel was a joke, it was a collapsible one about the size of a large serving spoon!! But I had to do something to get free so I started digging.

After about five minutes of digging it was obvious I was loosing the battle, as fast as I dug the snow away the wind blew in more. After 15 minutes I was totally exhausted and beat a hasty retreat to the warmth of the car to await a passing truck to pull me out. Of course my cell phone didn't work, the usual no coverage anywhere more than a mile from town!! So I waited, and waited, and slowly the car was being covered with blown snow.

And then the rescuer appeared through the blizzard.....A pooh truck!! He had been out to the rig to suck the toilets out, and here he was to pull me free!!!! What a star! Through various hand gestures I got him to figure out what I wanted to do and he latched onto my car a pulled it out of the snowdrift. Yeh!! I then turned round and followed him out to the main road and went back to my safe office and dried out.

Today I learned some very important lessons

1. Never, ever , ever underestimate the weather here
2. The speed at which energy is sucked from the body in cold blizzard conditions
3. Rescuers come in all shapes ....and smells!!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Arctic Indian Festival

This last weekend saw the annual Arctic Indian Festival in Novy Urengoy. Last year I missed this feast of ethnicity as I was having days off; and can you believe I have been coming to this place for a year already??? Time flies when you're freezing your rear off!!

Anyway I looked forward to this extravaganza with great anticipation. The Indians have been busy all winter long (that means from last August!!) making their trinklets and artisania to sell to the gringos and make enough money for their Vodka and ciggies for the coming year. What an opportunity for me to witness something not everybody gets to see, and buy stuff that will fascinate visitors to Casa Mellars.

So Saturday afternoon I ventured forth with my trusty interpreter to enjoy the sites. As we approached the area of the festival the music could be heard echoing off of the "picturesque" blocks of flats and Indian tepees could be seen, wow this looked promising!
However the closer we got the more I realized that the number of tepees was about three or four not the multitude advertised in local newspapers.
This is yours truly outside of one of the tepees. I actually looked inside, the place was dark, full of smoke from the fire, and stank like you wouldn't believe! A good photo op however.

The first interesting thing we saw was a pole about 30 foot high with boots attached to the top. This pole, as explained by my interpreter, is a much enjoyed competition for the local youth. They strip off to their undies(remember it may be Spring but it was still -20 outside) and then try to climb up the pole and snag a boot with a prize in it. However the pole is covered with grease.... just to make it a little more interesting! During the time we watched, about 15 minutes, many tried but only one managed to make it, as can be seen in the picture below.

Moving on we saw some Indian dancers and singers performing absolutely incomprehensible dances that even my interpreter didn't understand.

We then moved over to the artisania stands to buy some goodies. Ha! what a joke, the artisania consisted of things I wouldn't keep if they came out of a Christmas Cracker. Pure junk, in fact my interpreter showed me a trinklet with a "Made in China " sticker on the back!! The only thing I saw worth buying was a rather magnificent set of Reindeer antlers ( fortunately not still on the Reindeer) but the thieving bast.... gentleman wanted $300 for them. Needless to say I didn't buy them.

And basically that was it as far as the Indian part went. The rest of the site was covered with Shashlik stands (Shashlik is like Greek souflaki only giant size and is actually quiet tasty when cooked in hygienic conditions), and booze tents, filled with the inevitable drunk local men being held up by their ever faithful wives.

And I didn't get to see a live Reindeer

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Things That Don't Work at -42C

Over the past week the temperatures have plummeted and have been as low as -42 C static, around -48C with wind added. This is not pleasant, it's just plain painful.
At these temperatures certain things stop working, things you wouldn't normally think about.

1. Digital Cameras
This last week I have spent a lot of time outdoors with work related issues; of course it would be the week with the lowest temperatures so far!! The knack to surviving outdoors in this weather is to do it in 5 minute pieces, that way the important parts of your body don't have time to freeze. During one of these 5 minute excursions I felt something tickling me under my nose, couldn't be a bug much to cold for any living thing, so what was it? I walked over to my car and checked things out in the mirror; there was a white bottle brush under my nose!! Ice had formed on my moustache and made the wiskers go in all directions. I did not dare rub the ice off because I was afraid the whole thing would just shatter. Then the inevitable happened...somebody pulled out a camera. But the weather was kind, the camera opened up as digital cameras do, and then completely died and refused to work any more....yeh!!

2. Car CD Players
I cannot drive without music, and so as is my wont I slid a CD into the car player, nothing happened for a while but then an incredible noise erupted from the speakers. It sounded like the whole CD was being played at once...and backwards at that!! It wasn't until I had driven for about 30 minutes that the thing started to work properly!!!

3. Car Transmissions
The engine of my car has a wonderful little heater so that I can start it in the morning even at -42 C. The other morning I jumped in the car and started it as usual, and then tried to put it in gear....I couldn't move the gear stick at all, completely rigid. I tried to move it and finally there was a little movement, then a little more, eventually after about 10 minutes I managed to get it in first and slowly got the car moving... the transmission oil had frozen!!!

4. Me !!!!!!